Wie misses PGA cut after late collapse

Meltdown on final holes keeps teen two strokes away from making history

Golf

July 09, 2005|By Ed Sherman | Ed Sherman,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

SILVIS, Ill. - Two bad holes.

That's all it took from denying Michelle Wie a special place in history yesterday. Or, judging by the way she played, it might be history deferred.

Wie had a shot to spare inside the magic cut line with four holes left during the second round of the John Deere Classic. But a couple disastrous shots prevented her from becoming the first woman to make the cut in a PGA Tour event since Babe Didrikson Zaharias did it in 1945.

Wie had to settle for a 71 playing in front of enthusiastic Tiger Woods-size galleries at the TPC at Deere Run. At 1-under par, she missed the cut by two shots.

Wie did beat 54 men in the field, including withdrawals. She finished in a tie for 88th, the same as Nick Price, one of her golfing heroes.

J.L. Lewis, the 1999 winner, followed his opening 64 with a 65 to take the lead at 13-under 129. Shigeki Maruyama (63) and Hunter Mahan (68) were second at 11-under.

Wie, though, wasn't in the mood to be consoled. Speaking like a typical 15-year-old, she said of the two bad holes, "It was pretty killer."

They killed what looked to be a magical day for Wie. Starting on the back nine, she opened with birdies on three of her first five holes, including a chip-in off the green for a birdie on the par-3 12th.

Wie seemed destined to match the number she wore on her belt buckle: 68. She said she picked up the item in France because she thought it was "a cool number."

Wie was rolling when she arrived at the par-4 sixth hole at 4-under, safely inside the cut at 3-under. She still looked OK after she went from a fairway trap to a green-side trap. However, she made a critical three-putt from 20 feet to take a double bogey.

Wie then pushed a 4-iron way right on the par-3 seventh, leading to another bogey. Suddenly, she dropped to 1-under with two holes left. Her bid came to a quick end.

"I played great the front nine, but just got kind of slow the back nine," Wie said. "Just two holes kind of went like that."

Wie insisted she wasn't feeling the pressure. She said she just made a bad putt on No. 6 and a bad swing on No. 7. Take away the sixth hole, which she played in 3-over for the two days, and she would be playing this weekend.

When asked what she got out of her third PGA Tour event, Wie said, "I just really realized how important the last six holes are. I just have to think about that from now on."

Even though she didn't finish well, Wie did make quite an impression. Besides the chip-in, she thrilled the large gallery around the 18th hole by knocking a 7-iron within inches for a birdie.

"I thought she played very well," said Scott Gutschewski, one of Wie's playing partners. "Good putter, very impressed with her short game, and she hits the ball straight. I mean, pretty good combination for 15. You don't see too many 15-year-olds with a short game like that."

Gutschewski shot a 66 yesterday to beat Wie at 5-under. Wie's other playing partner, Nick Watney, wasn't as fortunate, as he came in at 5-over with a round of 72.

"It was unfortunate what happened to her, but I'm sure she'll come back better the next time," Watney said.

Wie doesn't have any other PGA Tour events on her schedule right now, but her long-term goal is to play with the men. And B.J. Wie said his daughter wants to earn her spots in the future.

"She's not at that stage yet, but she will get better and better," he said. "She'll go through qualifying when the time is right."

Just when that will be is uncertain. LPGA rules prohibit players from turning pro and making money on the tour until after their 18th birthday, unless a special exemption is granted. Wie has said repeatedly that she wants to go to college, and she said earlier this week that she didn't plan to ask the LPGA for an exemption.

But when asked about speculation his daughter would turn pro after she turns 16 in October, B.J. Wie said, "That's one of the scenarios, we haven't decided yet."

"We'll just concentrate on the summer tour," he added. "We'll see how it goes."

Up next for Wie is the men's U.S. Amateur Publinx next week outside of Cincinnati. She earned a spot through qualifying. If she should win the event, she would get an invitation to next year's Masters.

No matter when the next opportunity comes for Wie to play against the top men's pros, Wie will be ready.

"On the LPGA, I made the cut on my fourth try," Wie said. "You know, my fourth try is coming up [on the PGA Tour], so I'm really looking forward to that."

The Associated Press contributed to this article. The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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